The period of the “Five Good Emperors” was brought to an end by the reign of Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (aka Commodus) from AD 180 to 192. The son of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus was the only direct successor in a century thus breaking the scheme of adoptive successors that had worked so well.
Commodus was co-Emperor with his father from AD 177. When Commodus became sole Emperor upon the death of his father in AD 180, it was initially seen as a hopeful sign by the people of the Roman Empire.
Commodus’ sane rule began to fail when a close advocate, Cleander, was assassinated. This made Commodus start to fear for his life.
After an assassination attempt involving a conspiracy by certain members of his family, the mindset of Commodus went from paranoid slipping into insanity. The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) ended with the reign of Commodus.
He dealt with this fear through massacre of the nobles and aristocracy. He began removing himself from his identity as ruler ideologically by resuming his birth name instead of keeping the names that his father gave him when he succeeded to imperial rule.
One could argue that the assassination attempt began the long decline of the Roman Empire. Commodus planned a huge massacre in Rome for New Year’s Eve 192 AD, in which he killed many of the nobles so that he could become the sole Consul.
The political unrest began with the murder of Commodus on New Year’s Eve 192 AD. Once Commodus was assassinated, Pertinax was named Emperor but immediately had aroused opposition from the Praetorian Guard.
Pertinax gained his political clout by moving his way up the military ranks. He was Proconsul of Africa, making him the earliest of several emperors who began their political roles in Africa.
Since most of the nobles had been murdered in the New Year’s Eve massacre, Pertinax was one of the few high-ranking officials left to become the new Emperor. Pertinax had a tough road to climb when he became Caesar because Commodus left his regime with major financial difficulties.
Pertinax was a great contrast to Commodus. He was disciplined but lost the favor of the troops early since he took away all of the favors that Commodus gave them.
The Praetorian Guard plotted and carried out his assassination on 28 March. Pertinax was killed while resisting, having reigned as Emperor for just 3 months.
Didius Julianus was his successor as Caesar. Julianus also gained power as Proconsul of Africa, succeeding Pertinax in that position as well.
Julianus was not just given the position of Emperor after Pertinax’s death. He had competition in Pertinax’s father-in-law, Sulpicianus.
The only way that Julianus gained the Senate’s favor was by outbidding Sulpicianus for the amount he would pay the troops. Julianus was originally accused of being Pertinax’s murderer.
Two public figures used the public’s fear to take advantage of this crisis: Pescennius Niger, the Governor of Syria, and Septimius Severus. Twelve days after Pertinax’s murder, Severus was declared Caesar by the Senatus Romanus in place of Julianus.
The mobs, who regarded Julianus unfavorably, called on Pescennius Niger for assistance. Julianus was executed on June 1, just 2 months after Pertinax was killed.
Niger ended up proclaiming himself Emperor, which further angered Severus. Niger had allies in the eastern part of the Empire so when Severus threatened him with troops, he gathered an army from his allies.
This started a 2-year civil war between Niger and Severus as both gathered troops and fought throughout the territory of the Empire. Due to this war Severus allowed Clodius Albinus to be co-Caesar so that Severus did not have to preoccupy himself with imperial governance.
This move allowed him to concentrate on waging the war against Niger. It also served as a way for Severus to keep an eye on Albinus, whom he suspected as a threat to himself.
Niger eventually lost the civil war to Severus near the city of Issus.
Albinus came into contention for the imperial office in AD 193. Some sources say that the treaty between Severus and Albinus was only honorary and only benefited Severus, who only won because of Albinus’ support while not actually giving away any of his power as Emperor.
Albinus initially controlled Britannia and this treaty would have given him power over Gallia and Hispania. Albinus continued in this role as Caesar for 3 more years before a civil war broke out between him and Severus, resulting in Severus becoming the all-encompassing Emperor.
Some sources tie Severus and Pertinax together and call them allies, which would explain how Severus became so powerful during this chaotic year. Severus had originally wanted to take the throne after Commodus’ murder, but the haste with which the assassins named Pertinax Emperor prevented that from happening.
After he defeated both of his enemies, Severus got rid of their followers to imprint in the people’s minds that he was the all-encompassing Caesar. However, once he defeated Niger, he set his sights on his enemy Albinus and waged a civil war against him and eventually defeated him.
Most historians count Severus and Albinus as 2 Emperors even though they ruled simultaneously. The Severan Dynasty was created out of the chaos of 193 AD.
With that we neatly wrap up a period that those having lived it would like to all but forget. Even in our own troubled times, we still don’t have the chaos that was Rome’s 193 AD.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Adams, Geoff W. The Emperor Commodus: Gladiator, Hercules or a Tyrant? BrownWalker Press, 2013. ISBN 1612337228
Birley, Arthur R. Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0415165911.
Brunt, A. “The Fall of Perennis: Dio-Xiphilinus 79.9.2”. Classical Quarterly, 23 (1973).
Burckhardt, Jacob. The Age of Constantine the Great. University of California Press, 1949.
Hekster, Olivier. Commodus: An Emperor at the Crossroads. Brill, 2002. ISSN 0924-3550.
Howe, L. The Praetorian Prefect from Commodus to Diocletian (AD 180-305). Chicago, 1942.
As we venture from East to West and from North to South, it’s always nice to just get back home. In this case we do not mean Texas, we are talking about Rome.
The mausoleum is a large tomb built by the Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. The mausoleum is located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, near the corner with Via di Ripetta as it runs along the Tiber.
The grounds cover an area equivalent to a few city blocks, and nestle between the Church of San Carlo al Corso and the Museum of the Ara Pacis. The interior of the mausoleum is not open to tourists.
The mausoleum was one of the original projects initiated by Augustus following his victory at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. The mausoleum was circular in plan, consisting of several concentric rings of earth and brick, planted with cypress trees on top of the building and capped by a conical roof and a 15 ft-tall bronze statue of Augustus.
Vaults held up the roof and opened up the burial spaces below. The completed mausoleum measured 295 ft in diameter by 137 ft in height.
A corridor ran from the entryway into the heart of the mausoleum. Here there was a chamber with 3 niches to hold the golden urns enshrining the ashes of the Imperial Family.
After the disastrous defeat of the Commune of Rome at the hands of the Count of Tusculum in AD 1167, the Colonna were disgraced and banished, and their fortification in the Campo was dismantled. The area thus became a ruin.
In the early 20th Century the Mausoleum of Augusts was made into a concert hall. It was not until the 1930s that the site was opened as a preserved archaeological landmark along with the newly moved and reconstructed Ara Pacis nearby.
The restoration of the Mausoleum of Augustus to a place of prominence was part of Benito Mussolini‘s ambitious reordering of the city. This stripping away of everything modern upon the ruins and monuments of Rome was his attempt to connect the aspirations of Italian Fascism with the former glories of the Roman Empire.
Mussolini viewed himself especially connected to the achievements of Augustus, seeing himself as a “reborn Augustus” ready to usher in a new age of Italian dominance. We all know Augustus, and that Mussolini was no Augustus.
At the original time of this article (almost a year ago) Rome Commissioner Francesco Paolo Tronca had approved a €6-million preliminary project to complete restoration work at the Mausoleum of Augustus. Funding was to serve to finish structural work on the monumental tomb including covering it, building a circular catwalk around it, and preparing it to open for public visits.
This commitment to restoring Rome’s historical monuments not only benefits tourism, but it also keeps alive remnants from a dominate world culture for future generations. Keeping Rome’s past intact benefits everyone.
With the Telecom Italia’s €6-million for restoration and upgrades, both inside and out, this monument should be a new tourist draw for Rome. Having once been 1 of the key monuments in the history of mankind, the Mausoleum of Augustus is set to reclaim that title.
Tourists will be immersed in the most sensational story of humanity, from imperial Rome to the beginnings of Christianity and the Baroque period,” said Giuseppe Recchi, the president of Telecom Italia.
We hope you enjoyed our trip to the Romani Patriae and look forward to having you back again. Make sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter as well.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Dal Maso, Leonardo B. Rome of the Caesars. Bonechi: Florence, 1974.
Lanciani, Rodolfo. Pagan and Christian Rome. 1892. On-line.
Young, Norwood; P. Barrera. Rome and Its Story. J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd: London, 1951.
As I attempt to bring the best possible content, especially during my hectic work and educational schedule, I have been trying to revisit previous articles in hopes of coming across new information. That did not happen today though.
The dynasty is also called Neo-Flavian because every Constantinian Emperor bore the name Flavius, similarly to the rulers of the original Flavian Dynasty in the 1st Century. In order to get the full flavor of this dynasty, however, we need to take a look a little farther back.
Whereas before Emperors had worn only a purple toga and were greeted with deference, Diocletian wore jeweled robes and shoes. He even went so far as to require those who greeted him to kneel and kiss the hem of his robe.
In many ways, Diocletian was the initial monarchical Emperor, and this is symbolized by the fact that the word Dominus (Lord) rapidly replaced Princeps (First in Time or Order) as the favored word for referring to the Emperor. In short, the Dominate represents a time when the Emperors unabashedly showcased their status and authority compared to the earlier Principate.
The Dominate also featured a shift in the Empire’s “center of gravity” from the West (Rome) to the East (Constantinople), particularly after the establishment of Constantinople. Neither Diocletian nor his co-Emperor Maximian spent much time in Rome after 286 AD, establishing their Imperial capitals at Nicomedia and Mediolanum (modern Milan), respectively.
The Constantinian Dynasty properly began with Constantius I Chlorus (Caesar AD 293, Augustus AD 305), an experienced Illyrian soldier and General. The Constantiniani were originally another family of “Barracks Emperors” that is they were proclaimed Emperor by the Legions they commanded.
The dynasty retained and reinforced the monarchical evolution of the Imperial dignity, and sponsored the pivotal Edict of Milan in AD 312. This extended official toleration to Christianity, which had previously suffered considerable persecution under recent Emperors.
Constantine I undertook major reforms of Imperial administration and military organization, founded a new Imperial capital at Constantinople on 8 November 324 AD, summoned the primary Christian Ecumenical Council (First Council of Nicaea in AD 325), and became the paramount Christian Emperor in AD 337.
Constantine I aka Constantine the Great (Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus): 324 – 337
Constantine was the son of Flavius Valerius Constantius (aka Constantius Chlorus), a Roman Army Officer, and his consort Helena. Acclaimed as Emperor by the Army at Eboracum (modern-day York) after his father’s death in 306 AD, Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the Emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both West and East by 324 AD.
Before Constantine’s death, he divided the Empire into 4 parts governed by Caesares, apparently intending to re-establish the Tetrarchy. He left most of the West to his son Constantine II, the East to his son Constantius II, Italia and the Upper Danube to his son Constans I, and Greece and the Lower Danube to his half-nephew Flavius Dalmatius.
Dalmatius was killed shortly after Constantine’s death. The Empire was then divided into 3 parts (Britannia, Hispania, and Gallia; Italia and Africa; and the East).
Constantine II was Emperor of Britannia, Hispania, and Gallia. The eldest son of Constantine the Great and Fausta, after the death of his half-brother Crispus, Constantine II was born in Arles in February 316 AD and raised as a Christian.
In AD 340, Constantine II invaded Constans I’s territory in Italia. He was subsequently defeated and killed at Aquileia, and his provinces passed to the control of the brother whom he had attempted to displace.
Constans I (Flavius Iulius Constans Augustus): 337 – 350
Originally Emperor of Italia and Africa, Constans I annexed the provinces of his late brother Constantine II in AD 340, and became Emperor of the whole West. Anger in the Army over the personal life of Constans and the preference for his barbarian bodyguards led the General Magnentius to rebel, resulting in the assassination of Constans in 350 AD.
Magnentius (Flavius Magnus Magnentius Augustus): 350 – 353
Not born from the bloodline of Constantine, Magnentius was a usurper who ruled the West after Constans. Magnentius’s defeat in AD 353 by Constantius II, the last of the brother Emperors, reunified the Empire under a single Emperor.
The 2nd son of Constantine and Fausta, Constantius II ascended to the throne as Emperor in the East. In AD 353, Constantius II defeated the usurper Magnentius at Lyon and became sole Emperor, again uniting West and East.
Julian became Caesar over the western provinces by order of Constantius II in AD 355, and in this role campaigned successfully against the Alamanni and Franks. Most notable was his crushing victory over the Alamanni in 357 AD at the Battle of Argentoratum (Strasbourg), leading his 13,000 men against a Germanic army 3 times larger.
In AD 360, he was proclaimed Augustus in Lutetia Parisiorum (Paris) by his soldiers thus sparking a civil war between Julian and Constantius. Before the 2 could face each other in battle, however, Constantius died, after naming Julian as his rightful successor.
Constantius I Chlorus married twice. His earliest wife Helena bore him a son, Constantine I.
Constantine I’s 2nd wife Fausta (daughter of Maximian and Eutropia; sister of Maxentius; half-sister of Constantius I’s 2nd wife Theodora) bore him 3 sons (Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans I) and 2 daughters (Constantina and Helena).
These children were nieces and nephews of Maxentius, half-nieces and half-nephews of Licinius (who had married their father’s half-sister), and grandchildren of Maximian.
Constantius I’s 2nd wife Theodora (stepdaughter of Maximian and half-sister of Fausta) bore him 2 sons (Flavius Dalmatius and Julius Constantius) and 2 daughters (Eutropia and Constantia, the wife of Licinius). Julius Constantius’s sons Constantius Gallus and Julian married Constantine I’s daughters by Fausta, Constantia and Helena, respectively.
Constantius I Chlorus: father (and stepbrother-in-law) of Constantine I, grandfather of Constantine II, Constantius II, Constans I, and Julian the Apostate, father-in-law of Licinius, adopted son and stepson-in-law of Maximian, adoptive brother and half-brother-in-law of Maxentius
Constantine I: son (and stepbrother-in-law) of Constantius I Chlorus, son-in-law of Maximian, brother-in-law of Maxentius, half-brother-in-law of Licinius, father of Crispus, Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans I, half-uncle and father-in-law of Julian the Apostate
Constantine II: son of Constantine I, grandson of Constantius I Chlorus, grandson of Maximian, nephew of Maxentius, half-nephew of Licinius, brother of Crispus, Constantius II, and Constans I, half-cousin and brother-in-law of Julian the Apostate
Constantius II: son of Constantine I, grandson of Constantius I Chlorus, grandson of Maximian, nephew of Maxentius, half-nephew of Licinius, brother of Crispus, Constantine II, and Constans I, half-cousin and brother-in-law of Julian the Apostate, father-in-law of Gratianus
Constans I: son of Constantine I, grandson of Constantius I Chlorus, grandson of Maximian, nephew of Maxentius, half-nephew of Licinius, brother of Crispus, Constantine II, and Constantius II, half-cousin and brother-in-law of Julian the Apostate
Julian the Apostate: grandson of Constantius I Chlorus, step-great-grandson of Maximian, step-great-nephew of Maxentius, half-nephew and son-in-law of Constantine I, half-cousin and brother-in-law of Constantine II, Constantius II, and Constans I
We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s climb through a most distinguished family tree. We look forward to having you back again for more adventures.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Moore, Scott. The Stemmata of the Neo-Flavian Emperors. DIR, 1998.
Moore, Scott. The Stemmata of the Emperors of the Tetrarchy. DIR, 1998.
Born in Constantinople (8 February 1405) as the 8th of ten children (the 4th son), Constantine XI was extremely fond of his mother and added her surname (Dragases) next to his own dynastic one when he rose to the imperial throne. Constantine XI spent most of his childhood in Constantinople under the supervision of his parents.
During his youth Constantine XI was trained as a soldier. He later became Governor of Selymbria for a time.
In AD 1427, despot Theodore II of the Morea (Constantine XI’s older brother, the 2nd son) announced his decision to resign his power in this important Peloponnesian territory. When Constantine XI arrived, however, Theodore had changed his mind.
It was then agreed that Constantine XI should renew Byzantine efforts to conquer the areas of the Peloponnesus still in Latin hands, thus making an enclave for himself. He attacked Glarentza and finally won the city in 1428 by marrying the ruler’s niece.
By 1430 Constantine XI had conquered Patras and thus controlled the northern Peloponnesus. Two years later his younger brother Thomas annexed the last segments of Achaea, thereby placing all of the Peloponnesus in Byzantine hands for the first time since the Fourth Crusade (1204).
During the absence of his older brother in Italy, John VIII attended the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1437 to 1440). In his brother’s sted Constantine XI was Regent in Constantinople (1437-1440).
During the following years Constantine XI presided over what was to be the final flowering of Byzantine unity and prosperity in the Peloponnesus.
In 1442 Turks, under Murad, sieged Constantinople which was defended by Emperor John VIII Palaeologos. Simultaneously, Constantine XI fought the Turks on the island of Limnos.
There he lost his 2nd wife, Katherine. Constantine XI then became Despótēs of the Morea in October 1443, ruling from the fortress and palace in Mistra. At the time, Mistra was a fortified town known as Sparta.
Due to its proximity to the ancient city, this was a center of arts and culture rivaling Constantinople.
Upon succeeding his brother to the imperial throne, Constantine XI proceeded cautiously regarding the hated agreements for Church union with the Latins. It seems John had in haste accepted terms unfavorable to the East at Florence in hopes of winning Latin aid.
Finally, under pressure from Rome, Constantine XI allowed the union to be proclaimed. This act greatly antagonized the bulk of his subjects, while it actually won him little effective help from the Latin West.
With only token help from outside, Constantine XI had to face the Empire’s last agony, as the Turkish sultan Mohammed II launched his great siege against Constantinople in early April 1453. The Turks finally broke into the city on 29 May 1453 as Constantine XI died bravely during the ensuing sack.
Legend has it that when the Ottomans entered the Constantinople, an angel rescued the Emperor. Said angel then turned Constantine XI into marble and placed him in a cave under the earth near the Golden Gate.
This is where the Emperor waits today to be brought back to life again to conquer the city for the Christians. Ahmed Pasha, while serving as ambassador to Russia in 1834, presented Tsar Nicholas with a jewel-encrusted sword supposedly taken from Constantine XI’s corpse.
Constantine XI’s legacy was used as a rallying cry for Greeks during their War for Independence with the Ottoman Empire. Today the Emperor is considered a Greek national hero.
During the Balkan Wars and the Greco-Turkish War, under the influence of the Megali Idea, the name of the then-Greek king, Constantine, was used in Greece as a popular confirmation of the prophetic myth about the Marble King who would liberate Constantinople and recreate the lost Empire.
History can be recorded. Myths can be created.
What matters most is that the past is remembered. Here is to Rome and its Emperors.
We hope you enjoyed today’s adventure. We look forward to sharing more with you again soon.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
Crowley, Roger. 1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West. Hyperion, 2005. ISBN 1-4013-0850-3.
Whenever there is a date attached to a significant event or celebration, we try to make certain to share it with everyone. Whether it be the birthdate of Julius Caesar (13 July 100 BC) or the Saturnalia festival (17 December).
No matter what we discover or where we journey our plan is to make it as interesting as possible. With the holiday season upon us, though, we thought we should check out some festive commemorations.
According to the traditional story, Lucy was born of rich and noble parents about the year AD 283, her father was of Roman origin while her mother Eutychia was Greek. Lucia’s father died when she was 5 years old, leaving her and her mother without a protective guardian.
Like many of the early martyrs, Lucy had consecrated her virginity to God, and hoped to distribute her dowry to the poor. Eutychia, not knowing of Lucy’s promise and suffering herself from a bleeding disorder, feared for Lucy’s future and arranged Lucy’s marriage to a young man of a wealthy pagan family.
During the Decian Persecution (about 52 years earlier) Saint Agatha had been martyred and her shrine at Catania attracted a number of pilgrims. Many miracles many miracles were reported to have happened through Agatha’s intercession, so in hopes of a curing herself Eutychia journeyed to Catania.
While there, St. Agatha came to Lucy in a dream and told her that because of her faith her mother would be cured and that Lucy would be the glory of Syracuse, as she was of Catania. With her mother cured, Lucy took the opportunity to persuade her mother to allow her to distribute a great part of her riches among the poor.
Eutychia suggested that the sums would make a good bequest, but Lucy countered, “…whatever you give away at death for the Lord’s sake you give because you cannot take it with you. Give now to the true Savior, while you are healthy, whatever you intended to give away at your death.”
News that the patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to Lucy’s betrothed, who denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Paschasius ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the Emperor’s image.
When she refused Paschasius sentenced Lucia to be defiled in a brothel. The Christian tradition states that when the guards came to take her away, they could not move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen.
Bundles of wood were then heaped about her and set on fire, but would not burn. Finally, she met her death by the sword.
Absent in the early narratives and traditions, at least until the 15th Century, is the story of Lucia tortured by eye-gouging. According to later accounts, before she died she foretold the punishment of Paschasius and the speedy end of the persecution, adding that Diocletian would reign no more, and Maximian would meet his end.
This so angered Paschasius that he ordered the guards to remove her eyes. Another version has Lucy taking her own eyes out in order to discourage a persistent suitor who admired them.
When her body was prepared for burial in the family mausoleum, however, it was discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored.
By the 6th Century, her story was sufficiently widespread that she appears in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I. She is also commemorated in the ancient Roman Martyrology.
St. Aldhelm and the Venerable Bede both attest that her popularity had already spread to England by the mid-7th Century. Saint Lucy’s festival was kept in England until the Protestant Reformation, as a holy day of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed.
In his sermo de Sancta Lucia, Siegebert chronicled that her body lay undisturbed in Sicily for 400 years, before Faroald II, Duke of Spoleto, captured the island and transferred the body to Corfinium in the Abruzzo, Italy. From there it was removed by the Emperor Otho I in 972 to Metz and deposited in the Abbey of St. Vincent.
It was from this shrine that an arm of Saint Lucia was taken to the monastery of Luitburg in the Diocese of Speyer. This incident was celebrated by Sigebert in verse.
On their capture of Constantinople in 1204, the French found some relics attributed to Saint Lucy in the city, and Enrico Dandolo, Doge of Venice, secured them for the monastery of St. George at Venice. In 1513 the Venetians presented to Louis XII of France the Saint’s head, which he deposited in the Cathedral Church of Bourges.
The remainder of the relics remained in Venice before being transferred to the church of San Geremia when the church of Santa Lucia was demolished in 1861. A century later, on 7 November 1981, thieves stole all her bones, except her head.
The emblem of eyes on a cup or plate apparently reflects popular devotion to her as protector of sight, because of her name, Lucia (from the Latin word luxwhich means light). In paintings St. Lucy is frequently shown holding her eyes on a golden plate as she also holds the palm branch, symbol of victory over evil.
She is also the Patroness of Syracuse in Sicily, Italy. At the Piazza Duomo in Syracuse, the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia houses the painting “Burial of St. Lucy (Caravaggio)“.
Dante also mentions Lucia in Inferno, Canto II, as the messenger “of all cruelty the foe” sent to Beatrice from “The blessed Dame” (Divine Mercy), to rouse Beatrice to send Virgil to Dante’s aid. Lucia’s appearance in this intermediary role is to reinforce the scene in which Virgil tries to fortify Dante’s courage to begin the journey through the Inferno.
In the Purgatorio IX : 52–63, Lucy carries the sleeping Dante to the entrance to Purgatory. Then inParadiso XXXII Dante places her opposite Adam within the Mystic Rose in Canto XXXII of the Paradiso. Lucy may also be seen as a figure of Illuminating Grace or Mercy, or even Justice.
Now it’s time to party!
Saint Lucy’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Lucy, is a Christianfeast day celebrated on 13 December in Advent, commemorating Saint Lucy, who according to legend brought “food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs” using a candle-lit wreath to “light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible”. Her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, so her feast day has become a festival of light.
The General Roman Calendar formerly had a commemoration of Saints Lucy and Geminianus on 16 September. This was removed in 1969, as a duplication of the feast of her Dies Natalis (Day of Birth) on 13 December and because the Geminianus in question, mentioned in the Passio of Saint Lucy, seems to be a fictitious figure, unrelated to the Geminianus whose feast is on 31 January.
Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated most commonly in Scandinavia, with their long dark winters, where it is a major feast day, and in Italy. Each location, though, emphasizes a different aspect of the story.
In Scandinavia, where Saint Lucy is called Santa Lucia in Norwegian and Sankta Lucia in Swedish, she is represented as a lady in a white dress and red sash with a crown or wreath of candles on her head. In Norway, Sweden and Swedish-speaking regions of Finland, girls dressed as Lucy carry rolls and cookies in procession as songs are sung.
Boys participate in the procession as well, playing different roles associated with Christmas. It is said that to vividly celebrate Saint Lucy’s Day will help one live the long winter days with enough light.
The pre-Christian holiday of Yule (Jól) was the most important holiday in Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Originally the observance of the Winter Solstice, and the rebirth of the sun, it brought about many practices that remain in the Advent and Christmas celebrations today.
The Yule season was a time for feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and gatherings. However, it was also the season of awareness and fear of the forces of the dark.
Saint Lucy is also popular among children in some regions of North-Eastern Italy where she is said to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad ones the night between December 12 and 13. According to tradition, she arrives in the company of a donkey and her escort, Gastaldo.
Children are asked to leave some coffee for Lucia, a carrot for the donkey and a glass of wine for Gastaldo. They must not watch Santa Lucia delivering these gifts, or she will throw ashes in their eyes, temporarily blinding them (ironic since she is the Patroness of People with Eye-Trouble).
Sicilians recall a legend that holds that a famine ended on her feast day when ships loaded with grain entered the harbor. Here, it is traditional to eat whole grains instead of bread on 13 December in the form of cuccia, a dish of boiled wheat berries often mixed with ricotta and honey, or sometimes served as a savory soup with beans.
An inscription in Syracuse dedicated to Euskia mentioning St Lucy’s Day as a local feast dates back to the 4th Century AD, which states “Euskia, the irreproachable, lived a good and pure life for about 25 years, died on my Saint Lucy’s feast day, she for whom I cannot find appropriate words of praise: she was a Christian, faithful, perfection itself, full of thankfulness and gratitude”.
The Feast of Saint Lucy became a universal feast of the Church in the 6th Century, commemorating the Christian martyr’s death on 13 December 304 AD. Saint Lucy’s Day appears in the sacramentary of Gregory, as well as that of Bede, and Christian churches were dedicated to Saint Lucy in Italy as well as in England.
Catholic celebrations take place on the 13th of December and in May. On her feast day, a silver statue of Saint Lucy containing her relics is paraded through the streets before returning to the Cathedral of Syracuse.
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which is the successor church to hundreds of Scandinavian and German Lutheran congregations, Saint Lucy is treated as a commemoration on December 13, in which red vestments are worn. Usually, the Sunday in Advent closest to December 13 is set aside for Saint Lucy, in which the traditional Scandinavian procession is observed.
We hope you enjoyed today’s discovery of Saint Lucia of Syracuse and the celebration of her feast day. Even if you are not of the faith, it’s really just another reason to party with friends and family.
Have a blessed Holiday Season. Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
In today’s world we see many professional athletes showcasing their talents in their respective sport, and also in media through various endorsement deals.
These sports superstars are idolized, seen as role models, and are envied for the life in which they live in comparison to the average working person. Not much has changed over the course of 2 millenia.
The sports stars of the past were gladiators and charioteers instead of players of American Football, soccer, golf, basketball, tennis, baseball, etc. The fame and fortune was there, but on a completely different level.
As a child, Diocles lived at Lamecum with his father who worked and owned a transport business. It was here that the boy would race chariots.
His main renowned victory outside of Lusitania was in Ilerda (now Lleida, Catalonia, Spain). This success gave him international fame and encouraged him go to Rome, where he was known as the Lamecus (since he was born in Lamecum).
Within Lamecus a statue of Diocles was erected on top the fountain in front of the garden, known as Jardim do Campo, located in the center of town. One can still see the tile panel painted by the famous painter Jorge Colaco where he portrays Diocles fitness as the supreme racing athlete driving quadrigas.
According to Roman author Tertullian, chariot racing originally just 2 teams, White and Red, sacred to winter and summer respectively. This grew into 4 teams (Red, White, Green, and Blue), with each team having up to 3 chariots each in a race.
Members of the same team often collaborated with each other against the other teams, for example to force them to crash into the spina (a legal and encouraged tactic). Drivers could switch teams, much like athletes can be traded to different teams today.
At age 18, Diocles began driving for the White team. After 6 years, he switched to the Green team. After 3 years with Green, he began driving for the Red team where he stayed
There is evidence which suggests that Diocles sought not only money but personal glory, another supposedly modern condition, with his choice of team. Of all the teams, the Greens and Blues were the most successful and popular.
Diocles began his career at age 18 as a White, before making a move to the Greens at age 24. This was a seemingly plum spot for any young charioteer.
Yet he transferred to the less popular, and potentially less stacked, Reds at age 27. This move had to have made financial sense and may have had personal motivations as well, since it was the worst of the 4 factions.
It is entirely possible, considering his weakness for showmanship, Diocles wished to be a single, shining star. His switch from the Greens, where he was one of many popular charioteers on a team with a storied history of them, so that he could write his own history with the Reds makes sense.
Diocles remained a Red until his retirement at age 42. That length as a charioteer was an accomplishment in itself.
The higher level of pay did not come without its perils for Diocles and his contemporaries. With little more than a leather helmet, shin guards and simple chest armor for protection, racers endured 7 grueling laps of competition, which often ended in the deaths of rivals unfortunate enough to be upended.
He most commonly came from behind to win his races. Records show that he won only 34% or 1,462 out of the 4,257 quadriga races he competed in though.
The Roman chariot racer’s career earnings, marked down with admirable permanence in a stone inscription erected in Rome in 146 AD by his fellow charioteers and fans, totaled 35,863,120 sesterces. With his earnings, Diocles could do any of the following: feed grain to all of Rome for an entire year; compensate the 5 most handsomely paid ProvincialGovernors’ salaries; or could bankroll the Roman Army, then at its world conquering height, for a fifth of a year.
Dr. Peter Struck, from the University of Chicago, said “By today’s standards that last figure, assuming the apt comparison is what it takes to pay the wages of the American armed forces for the same period, would cash out to about $15 billion.”
The 2nd Century “Champion of all Charioteers” made his fortune even without the sponsorship and marketing fees that bolster the pay of his modern counterparts in the sporting world. That’s something Tiger Woods could not claim.
Aside from the romance which still smolders in the West for the Classical Era, the sheer size of the figure demanded enthusiastic attention. Fifteen billion dollars is such a sum, for one man, as to be staggering.
It is like the distance between stars, or the death tolls of certain Eastern Front battlefields. These are numbers so large as to be almost concepts.
While the news outlets salivated over Diocles’s immense fortune, it missed an important lesson encoded within his statistics. The Romans, as devout followers of sport as any modern society, kept meticulous records with regards to chariot racing; not only the charioteers of the 4 factions, but also stats on the horses as well, which were famed athletes in their own right.
Roman obsession with panem et circenses (bread and games) showed what the people valued most, the grain dole and chariot races in the Circus. The very phrase panem et circenses denotes this unhealthy preoccupation with materialistic stuff, a scope whose parallel can certainly be drawn in our modern terms.
Some races were worth more than others, and records show Diocles to have been a rather singular talent. 1,064 of his wins came in high stakes single entry races, wherein the Reds, Greens, Blues, and Whites would each offer unto the cruel Circus their best charioteer, who would fend of his adversaries without the aid of his teammates.
Diocles also notched 110 victories in opening races following grand processions in which the racers were a part. Such contests were like a Heavyweight Title Fight, where a bigger draw yields a bigger paycheck.
The life expectancy of a charioteer was not very high, so drivers could become celebrities throughout the Empire simply by surviving. One such celebrity driver was Scorpus, who won 2,048 races before being killed in a collision with the meta when he was about 27 years old.
Because many charioteers died quite young, this made Diocles’ career unusually long and stand out even more. By the time of his rather unusual death (calm and quiet after retirement), Diocles passed away in Praeneste, (present Palestrina, Italy)
Diocles is also notable for owning an extremely rare ducenarius, or a horse that had won at least 200 races.
We’re glad you joined us on today’s adventure. Make sure to join us again for who knows what we’ll uncover next.
Within history, there are those that make an impact that is so large that many volumes are written about his or her life. Then, there are those people who are still impactful yet little has been preserved over the course of time.
Today we uncover the life of one of those important people that little is known about as we explore the life of Marcus Fulvius Nobilior!
As Praetor (193 BC) he served with distinction in Hispania, and as Consul in 189 BC he completely broke the power of the Aetolian League. On his return to Rome, Nobilior celebrated a Triumphus remarkable for the magnificence of the spoils exhibited (of which full details are given by Livy).
On his Aetolian campaign, Nobilior was accompanied by the poet Ennius. Said poet made the capture of Ambracia, at which he was present, the subject of one of his plays.
If there’s something to do with Rome (City / Kingdom / Republic / Empire or otherwise) we are interested. People, places and events that impacted this history are also on our radar.
That is why today we journey through The Roman Empire – The Age of Augustus!
Augustus (full name in Latin: Imperātor Caesar Dīvī Fīlius Augustus) lived from 23 September 63 BC – 19 August 14 AD. He was the founder of the Roman Empire and its original Emperor, ruling from 27 BC until his death in AD 14.
The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana (The Roman Peace). The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire’s frontiers and one year-long civil war over the imperial succession.
If there’s something we love, it’s a good visual presentation about Roman history. Whether fictional or not, any television show or movie connecting us with Ancient Rome is a win.
That is why today we are taking a visual exploration of the Roman Republic!
The Res Publica Romana was the period of Ancient Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome’s control expanded from the city’s immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.